3 major European cities were rocked by attacks on Monday 19th. The difference in who was targeted and the perceived motivations for each attack reflect once again just how globalized a world we live in and how ongoing conflicts overseas are having an impact back home.
In the Turkish capital of Ankara, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey was assassinated whilst delivering an address at the opening of an art exhibition. The shooter, identified as Turkish police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas, was clearly heard to have cited the escalating situation in Syria whilst carrying out the attack as he said,
“Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria. Unless our towns are secure, you won’t enjoy security. Only death can take me from here. Everyone who is involved in this suffering will pay a price.”
In the Swiss city of Zurich, a gunman stormed the Zurich Islamic Centre and attacked worshipers during prayer, severely injuring three people. The gunman, who was said to have been on the run after committing the attack has now been found dead according to Swiss police forces.
In Berlin, 12 people were killed and a further 48 injured after a truck crashed into a busy Christmas Market in an attack reminiscent of what took place in Nice on 14th July. According to German officials, the attack is being treated as a suspected terrorist incident with the driver yet to be detained.
This most recent waves of attacks on European soil will no doubt have significant political consequences and add to the already tense atmosphere that has become apparent in communities across Europe and the rest of the world.
Whilst certain commentators will rush to politicize these events to further their own agendas, the nature and victims of the attacks, particularly in Berlin and Zurich, reiterate the point that violence and ‘acts of terror’ are not exclusive to any one community or people. The ones who perpetrate these acts have the most in common because they seek to justify their violence as legitimate reactions to grievance and anger.
With the situation in Syria escalating every day, the hope is that the events of yesterday do not exacerbate the violence and bloodshed taking place. The challenge governments and societies face is the inevitable backlash on refugees and immigrants in the wake of such attacks. It is important to reiterate that condemnation and the refusal to accept genuine war stricken refugees will play into the hands of extremists yearning for further divisions and fractures to embed themselves between communities.
For the Muslim community of the UK and Europe, the attack in Zurich shows the vulnerability of Islamic institutions. With the exponential rise we are seeing in Anti-Muslim sentiment across the world, notably through the political rhetoric of far right politicians, the safety and security of Islamic faith institutions is something that needs to be taken very seriously. It is crucial that management staff, trustees and attendees of these institutions remain vigilant and are trained and prepared to deal with crisis incidents.
As our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and families of the victims from these 3 cities and we continue to remember those in Syria, Burma, Yemen and elsewhere, it is important we have a mature conversation around the root causes of violence and seek a lasting solution to it.